New York’s judges haven’t gotten a pay raise in nearly 12 years, but some are taking advantage of a legal loophole allowing them to continue to draw their salaries while collecting a pension.

For example, 68-year-old State Supreme Court Justice Orazio Bellantoni has filed his retirement papers even though he was elected to a 14-year term November 3, the Journal News reports.

And Bellantoni won’t be alone. At least seven other state judges in Westchester and Rockland double dip, including the former administrative judge of the 9th Judicial District, Francis Nicolai.

William Kelly filed for his retirement papers in 2005 when elected to state Supreme Court in Rockland County. He had served 40 years as a Bronx prosecutor, Clarkstown justice and Rockland County judge. “His pension is $87,903, giving him a combined income of $224,603,” according to the newspaper.

“The law is what the law is. In view of the fact that we’re the lowest-paid judges in the country … I would hardly think this would be news,” Kelly said. “We’re paid much less than the junior associates who come into our courts. This gives us an opportunity to get some recognition of where we are in our careers.”

Judges and other elected officials can retire while remaining in office. But their pension payments end each year once they pass $30,000 in salary if they are younger than 65 or entered the retirement system after 1995. Those older than 65 who entered the system before 1995 receive full pensions on top of their salaries.

Judges aren’t the only elected officials to double-dip. Four members of the state Legislature “retired” shortly after being re-elected last year, according to the New York Times. Among them is Assemblyman Jack McEneny, a 65-year-old Albany Democrat.

Mr. McEneny explained how the system worked. “You have to have a day without being on the payroll,” he said. “You take the last day of your term, New Year’s Eve, and then you resign. On January 1, you come back as the newly elected assemblyman.”

Originally Published: NY Public Payroll Watch

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